Sir Bradley Wiggins says he turned down the chance to do reality shows including Strictly Come Dancing to do the Channel 4 winter sports series, The Jump.
The 36-year-old made the revelation in an interview released by the TV channel ahead of the fourth season of the show starting on Sunday evening.
Wiggins, who is Britain’s most decorated Olympian with eight medals – five of them gold –retired from competitive cycling in December.
Earlier in 2016, he insisted he would not join the celebrity television circuit, but in January was confirmed as featuring in the new season of The Jump.
He revealed he had received offers from other shows, including the BBC’s hugely successful dance show, saying he had been invited to appear on “Strictly and all that but this is the only one I would do, to be honest. I definitely don’t fancy putting on any Strictly Lycra and sparkles.”
The outfits in The Jump can hardly be described as understated, but Wiggins said he didn’t have a problem with that. “It’s not too bad for me because everyone’s used to seeing me in my cycling kit,” he explained. “So it’s not such a shock to the system like it is for the others.”
It still seems a curious decision, now he has chosen to go the reality TV route, not to accept an invitation to Strictly, a show that is very much part of the national conversation with ratings to match. Past contestants include former Olympic track cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, with the show introducing her to a new audience, many of whom would have been previously unaware of her sporting success.
Guardian TV critic, Stuart Heritage, also questions why Wiggins and other participants such as Paralympic cycling and athletics champion Kadeena Cox would take part in a show that fails to attract viewers in significant numbers and in which several participants have sustained serious injuries.
Heritage signs off with the words, “Who’s advising these people?” By coincidence, days after it emerged Wiggins would be in The Jump, it was announced he had switched management agencies.
Wiggins left Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment for M&C SaatchiMerlin – the switch apparently in part due to his unhappiness at his former management’s handling of the controversies over therapeutic use exemptions and ‘Jiffy Gate’ that have overshadowed the end of his career.
Returning to The Jump, Wiggins explained that some aspects differentiated it from other celebrity-focused shows.
Part of the appeal was wanting to improve his skiing, as well as keeping a training regime going to help maintain his mental and physical fitness.
“I just don’t trust myself one bit,” revealed Wiggins. “I’ve been institutionalised in sport since I was 12, so it’s a big change coming out of it at 36.
“I have to keep my head down and keep a bit of that institutional mentality. I don’t want to let it go and then find myself two or three years down the line in a bit of a state.
“I’ve got an obsessive nature, whatever I do, I do to excess, so I think I’d rather keep good and clean.”
As far as the specific training for the show itself is concerned, he said: “I’ve really enjoyed it actually. I like having a regimented routine. It’s what I am used to so I enjoy it.
“It hasn’t been harder than I thought it would be, more frustrating than anything. You know what you want to do but it doesn’t always happen, so that’s the biggest thing for me, the frustration.”
Wiggins said he was also attracted by the presence of other athletes – some retired, some still competing, and who include Robbie Fowler, former striker at Liverpool FC, the football team Wiggins has supported all his life.
“When I saw who else was coming on it, I could see there are some high-class sports people who have achieved so much, so that was definitely a factor,” he said.
Turning to the competition beginning in earnest, he said: “I’m just going to take it as it comes, I’m not thinking about it too much, what will be, will be.
“I’ll take it day by day. I’m not sure if my competitiveness will come out, maybe when I get going but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. My goal is to just improve my skiing, I’m not fussed about winning.”
Curious words, perhaps from a man who time after time in his career has focused on diverse goals and achieved them.
Uniquely, Wiggins has won world championships and Olympic gold medals on both the road and track, as well as becoming in 2012 the first British winner of the Tour de France. He also holds the UCI Hour Record.
And going back to Strictly, even if his dancing skills need some work, we’re sure he could get tips from Mark Cavendish, who partnered him to the Madison world championship in London last year; the Manxman was a talented ballroom dancer in his youth.
Or perhaps this sign in Central London, widely shared on social media earlier this month, put the thought in his head that Strictly is anti-cycling?
Worst TV spin-off ever. pic.twitter.com/rIv4rqClxU
— Sam Hodges (@SamHodges) January 19, 2017
Episode 1 of The Jump airs on Channel 4 on Sunday 6 February at 7.30pm. It will be repeated on Tuesday 8 February at 10pm, and will also be available to watch on the All 4 catch-up service.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.